The WhatCounts Blog

Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.

What You Need to Know About Drip Email Marketing

Dripping Maple Goodness by LadyDragonflyCC - >;< , via flickrDrip email marketing is the “dripping” of series of relevant emails to a specified list of subscribers. These messages are typically designed to build a relationship, increase customer retention, or guide leads through the sales process. Automation of email messages in a drip campaign is based on pre-determined time intervals, email order and number of messages. For example, when someone downloads an eBook from your website, they might get the first thank-you/introduction email within 24 hours, a second follow-up email in three days, and a third email a week later. In this example, you’ve sent three messages total; however, drip campaigns can have any number of emails in the channel, the number just needs to be determined prior to the start of the campaign. Drip campaigns are commonly employed because they are both efficient and successful at keeping a brand top-of-mind. Efficient, because once implemented, they free up time for your sales and marketing teams. Successful, because they can lead to up to a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities if designed correctly.

Common Types of Drip Campaigns

As mentioned above, drip emails can be used for a variety of purposes. Here are some drip campaigns topics you can introduce to your email marketing mix:

  • Relationship-building campaigns: Funnel leads through the sales process by establishing a relationship first. Offering valuable content, answering questions, and attempting to engage with your readers are good elements to include in your emails.
  • Educational campaigns: Keep leads and/or customers informed about relevant product information as they need it. You can use advanced segmentation to ensure only people interested in your updates receive communication about them.
  • Re-engagement campaigns: Target your cold leads or customers you haven’t heard from in a while with a clever email series. Perhaps you could use this as an opportunity to present a special offer or try something out-of-the-box to grab lost attention.
  • Promotional campaigns: Inform subscribers of upcoming or limited-time promotions.

It’s important to note drip campaigns can be particularly useful for creating qualified leads for sales teams, as the farther through the campaign a lead goes, the more exposure they will have had to your brand, which will help them in determining if they’re ready to invest. Regardless of what sort of drip campaign you’re conducting, it’s smart to segment your subscribers by their similarities and their relationship to your brand. Segmenting will help ensure your emails remain hyper-relevant and timely to their position in the sales cycle.

Tips for Your Drip Campaigns

Escalation – You want to make sure your emails make sense sequentially. The best drip campaigns are often ones where the messages increase in value and prominent calls-to-action as they proceed down the channel. People generally take a long time to make decisions, so use this opportunity to send snippets of information that build with time. Testing – Like any email, the key to a successful drip campaign is to perform testing to see what works best for your subscribers. A/B test ideas include, but are not limited to:

  • Subject Line
  • Frequency
  • Timing

Value – It’s critical to include some form of value in any and all email communication you send to leads and customers. This component is especially critical during drip campaigns, where many of your readers are in the evaluating/research stage of purchase. For leads who have the potential to turn into customers, the pre-investment stage is a perfect time to squash their indecision on purchasing by assuring them through your content that your company is the best at what it does. Do this by offering thought leadership through means of educational resources, videos, case studies, blog posts, etc. Additionally, stand out by tailoring your content to subtly address the questions leads may be having about your industry and/or brand. Something Extra – We preach about this often, but if you want to stand out in the inbox, you need to do something different, and make an impression with readers so they remember your brand. Try experimenting with creative themes and a bold, brand-conscious look and feel. You could also try including something interactive in your email, such as a quiz.

Victoria Lopiano
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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Capture Customers’ Attention with Lifecycle Email Marketing

Tower Optical binocular by Mrs Maccas, via FlickrThe first job of your lifecycle email marketing campaign, after identifying your audience, is capturing the attention of that audience. This relies on two principles: First, the person must recognize a need. Second, the person must be actively looking to fulfill that need.

There are a lot of people who have needs, but don’t recognize them. It’s your job to help these people perceive and acknowledge they have needs. This is often time-consuming and expensive. If someone is content driving a car with poor gas mileage, no warranty, and deteriorating metal, it will require tremendous effort from a marketer to convince the person to change his or her point of view about the beloved clunker.

The second type of prospect marketers must try to capture is one who knows he or she has a problem, but isn’t actively looking to solve it. This could be the case for a number of reasons: the person isn’t the decision maker; he or she doesn’t have enough resources to make the purchase; or the person doesn’t have a clear idea of a purchasing timeframe.

Once you have an audience in which at least some members understand they have a need to be filled, you must capture their attention. How can you get them to notice you and begin to explore what you’re offering?

Be there before the sale. You can do this in a few ways:

1. Search

When someone uses a search engine to look for the products and services you offer, make sure you’re high up, if not first, in the resulting search engine list. The challenge is you never know if you’re actually high in search rankings, because Google has done away with telling marketers what the most-used keywords are. So how can you be sure you’re achieving good SEO? Make sure your inbound links are of high quality and content on your site is authoritative. You can do this by creating relevant, original content for your website.

2. Email Sign Up

Your email marketing is the primary way you should be telling people about your company and establishing it as an expert in its field. Sending relevant, timely, targeted, awe-inspiring emails is the easiest way to provide value to your subscribers whether or not they’re interested in buying. At WhatCounts, we love email because creating an awe-inspiring email isn’t easy – but it’s powerful.

But even out-of-this-world email campaigns are worthless without people reading them. It would seem obvious to make your email signup process as easy and obvious as possible if you’re trying to drive business through email marketing. However, it only takes a few clicks around the Internet to reveal just how far that reality is for many marketers. Make your signup process as painless as possible by using a variety of methods.

First, ensure your email signup is above the fold on every page of your website, so it’s visible wherever people visit your site. Your signup process should be simple and clear, not convoluted, complicated or misleading. Even if prospects aren’t ready to purchase, you can make sure you’re front of mind when they are by sending them educational emails.

You can also use lightboxes, or website pop-ups, to draw attention to your email signup. These catch the hit-and-run visitors, whose attention last seconds before bouncing off your site. In order to get these visitors to make a move, use a bold call-to-action in your lightbox.

The Lifecycle Marketing Explained eBook is all yours.These are just a few ideas for capturing your customers’ attention with lifecycle marketing. To explore this topic more, feel free to get your copy of What’s the Buzz? Lifecycle Marketing Explained.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

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4 Themes to Use in Your September Emails

In less than two weeks, September will be upon us. Kiddies are heading back to school, traffic is getting a little heavier, and it’s a struggle to get back into the swing of things. But the fun of summer doesn’t have to end! There are lots of exciting aspects to September, and you can use them to pep up your email campaigns. In fact, here are four themes to inspire your September emails:

1. Back to school

For some kids, the exodus back to school has already begun. For others, they won’t have to face the classroom again until beginning-to-mid September. This makes now until the middle of next month a perfect time to send a back-to-school themed email campaign. Show your subscribers why they need to buy your products in order to have a successful start to the school year.

Take a peek at Apple’s back-to-school email, targeted at the older generation of kids returning to college for the year.

Bring a new iPhone back to school. And get $50 in apps.

Apple, Inc.'s September email

 2. Fall

The leaves change color. The air gets nippy. Apples are ready to be picked.

Sept. 23 marks the autumnal equinox, which tells the world it’s officially fall. Why not draw attention to your most fall-friendly products and services with an email?

Here are some subject line ideas from past autumn emails:

  • Time to Reboot (for a retailer’s boot sale)
  • Get ready for cooler weather
  • Hello, Fall
  • 10+ ways to make fall your favorite season
  • Autumn is here…time to fall into a good book!
  • Five Great Long-Weekend Trip Ideas for Fall (Attn: Travel marketers)
  • It’s not just the leaves that are falling
  • Fall Air+Cool Jackets=Happy Camper
  • Top 11 trends for fall…see what made our list!
  • Fall’s Must-Haves

And remember the rules about capitalizing the names of the seasons: Don’t, unless it’s a part of a proper name. “Trends for fall” - don’t capitalize. “The Freaky Fall Festival is here” - capitalize.

3. National observance

One of the ways brands can be most human to their customers is by remembering national holidays. September brings the 911 Remembrance on the 11th. Here’s your chance not to sell, but to simply offer a message of gratitude and remembrance.

4. Just for fun

If you have extra time on your hands, consider sending a message to your senior subscribers on Sept. 7 for Grandparent’s Day. Or on World Gratitude Day – Sept. 21 – thank your subscribers for reading your emails and send them an extra discount or freebie. Everyone loves a thank you! Or give your subscribers the chance to ping you with questions on Sept. 28 for Ask a Stupid Question Day. We’d certainly love to hear from you!

What kind of emails are you planning to send this September? Share them with our readers below.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

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Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


Case Study: A Place for Mom Tests Images in Email, Sees 27% Lift in CTOR

It’s always encouraging to get a pat on the back for something you’ve worked hard on. The blood, sweat and tears paid off for one email marketer recently. A Place for Mom, a senior care online resource, won two 2014 email testing awards for the image testing that inspired a dramatic increase in its subscriber engagement.

WhichTestWon, a resource providing information about various tests digital marketers create and execute, awarded A Place for Mom Gold and Best-in-Show for the 2014 Email & Mobile Testing Awards. This is the second year in a row A Place for Mom has won an award from WhichTestWon.

Let’s walk through the goals, practical applications, testing process, and results of this winning campaign.

Testing Set Up and Goals

Jeff Anderson, digital marketing manager at A Place for Mom, wanted to determine if he could implement an email template that, when viewed with images off, looked respectable. He thought he could do this by rendering lo-res versions of the images you’d see with images turned on.

The first step was converting the images into lo-res mosaics. Using the Mozify feature from Email on Acid, Jeff created these mosaics, as well as overlaid text. This is how he created the orange call-to-action buttons in the right column of the test template.

The goal of testing the Images-Off Optimized email template against the regular control version was to gain a higher click-to-open rate, (CTOR). There would be two specific user-determined actions acting as a catalyst for the boost in engagement:

  • Subscribers are compelled to turn on images when they see there’s something interesting and attractive in the email.
  • User experience improves as subscribers understand and interact with the images-off emails when needed.

With images on, both tested templates are identical. But with images off, there’s a noticeable difference.

“Click-to-open rate was the right metric to use because for those who haven’t opened the email, there is no detectable difference between the templates,” said Jeff.

The tests A Place for Mom conducted.

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3…

Using the Images-Off Optimized email and the control email, Jeff set up a simple A/B test. He split a large representative sample of A Place for Mom’s list of over 300,000 opted-in subscribers.

The test ran for about a week, and then Jeff manually selected a winner based on CTOR and sent the winning email to the rest of A Place for Mom’s list. The Images-Off Optimized email’s CTOR rate was 61 percent, whereas the control version had a 48 percent CTOR. That is a 13 percent increase in CTOR between the two versions, and a 27 percent overall improvement in CTOR for this email in general.

What should be noted is although CTOR went up, open rate declined slightly.

“I don’t think this was random,” said Jeff. “The increased email size probably decreased inbox placement and was what made the open rate lower.”

Jeff speculates the Images-Off Optimized email template hit fewer inboxes because those mosaics are coded into the email rather than hosted on a server like image files – meaning they take up a lot of memory.

However, although open rate did go down a little, Jeff understood the reasons why and realized for this particular email test, CTOR rate was what mattered. WhichTestWon obviously agreed, too!

If you want to learn more about email testing, Jeff Anderson will be sharing more case studies on September 4th. Hope you can come to the webinar!

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

Download our latest eBook

Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


Images in Email: 5 Things All Marketers Should Consider

strip by miemo, via FlickrEveryone knows the age-old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s important as a marketer you put extra thought into the images in your emails. Picking out the first stock image you find isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s walk through some key elements to consider when tackling your email image strategy.

1. Your Brand

This may seem obvious, but remember the images in your email should resonate with your brand. If you want to stand out in the inbox, make sure you’re including thoughtful, carefully curated images that connect with not only the topic of your email, but also with your brand’s overall personality.

2. Audience Demographics

Take a second to contemplate the most important factor in the success of your email: the audience. Look at your subscriber demographics and tailor your images accordingly. If your subscribers cover a wide demographic range, consider segmenting and sending slightly different images to different groups. Maybe with your younger subscription base you can push the envelope with your creativity, but with your more mature subscribers, take a more conservative approach.

You won’t know what works best until you do some testing. Try out different tactics and see what performs.

As an example, if you send a newsletter, try performing a split test with your audience. Send one batch a newsletter with (relevant) images for each article. Send another batch the newsletter with just one main image that goes with your feature story. See what happens.

3. Nature of the Email

Consider the type of email you’re sending to help you determine what type and how many images to include. For example, including visuals can be exceptionally valuable in promotional emails, where an attention-grabbing element is a must. If you want an image to be the focal point of your message, keep it above the fold to grab a reader’s attention from the get-go. In a letter-style email, images may not fit and should be limited in use.

No matter what the nature of your email, steer clear of sending a message consisting solely of images. It’s also in best practice to keep all important text in HTML and not in your images. This will help ensure the actual content of your email will display no matter what.

Note: The unsubscribe link should never be a graphic, including part of an image map. Email best practices dictate image maps are no-nos anyway.

4. Platforms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Consider user experience both before selecting images and after you’ve made your selections. Responsive email design is critical—according to Movable Ink, 66 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device or tablet. Pay attention to how many subscribers appear to open your emails on a mobile device as their experience with images may be different. Using responsive design, images can be scaled to the optimum size for your mobile readers, which should help you with email performance and conversion rate.

Test against all platforms and ISPs once you have created your email. Also, be aware many ISPs block images. Make sure you include descriptions in your image’s alt text so if people can read something relevant if images aren’t turned on.

5. The Images Themselves

Last but not least, if you’re going to take the time to put images in your emails (which you should!), make sure they’re awesome, unique, creative images. Read: No clip art. With the abundance of sources for public domain images, you should enjoy finding the perfect pictures for your emails. Check out this article from WP Tavern for some helpful public domain sites.

Victoria Lopiano
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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This Monday, Let’s Shine a Spotlight on Content

valuable original content by 10ch, via flickrBack in July, we wrote about How to Overhaul Your Content in 3 Steps. Today, we have curated five articles from across the web to help you with content production. These articles will help motivate you to come up with that killer new content for your email marketing campaigns, blog or website.

Using Video in Your Email Marketing | MarketingProfs

This article proposes that if content is king, video is the king’s golden crown. Including a video in your next email campaign could significantly increase your click-through rate; it has been reported to up to triple the amount. Check out this article for more reasons why it could be a good idea, and how to properly execute.

7 Ways Limitations Can Boost Your Content Creation Productivity | Content Marketing Institute

Indecision can be crippling to creativity, so I am always a fan of articles that suggest you can do more with fewer options. This article suggests that setting expectations and limitations on your content creation can keep you focused on the right things, enabling you to produce timely content. There are lots of tips in this article on how to restructure to accomplish this.

These Bad Blogging Habits Are Stunting Your Growth | Hubspot

Blogging is probably a key component to your content marketing strategy, so naturally you want to see your blog flourish. This article by Hubspot identifies four common but unsavory habits that all bloggers should avoid. Thankfully, solutions are listed.
(Bonus points to this article for mentioning ice cream and Game of Thrones.)

7 Ways to Simplify Complex Content While Maintaining Sophistication and Nuance | copyblogger

Step one of seven ways to create effective content is to ask dumb questions, according to this article published on copyblogger. While at first that may sound ridiculous, this article is full of impactful, clear-cut advice about how to convey your smart ideas in a way that resonates with your audience, both novice and advanced readers.

Produce Content Marketing that Customers Care About | Harvard Business Review

Most marketers can agree that good content marketing usually comes from a relevant, knowledgeable source and provides customers with answers to the questions they have been asking. What I found interesting about this blog post, published by the Harvard Business Review, is that it mentions multiple unique forums where you can establish credibility through your content. For example, speaking at events is a place where you can share content face-to-face with consumers.

Read a great marketing article in the last few weeks? Share it in the comments below, or tweet it to our handle.

Victoria Lopiano
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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The Automatic Unsubscribe Link is here to Stay

Stop Sign by Kt Ann, via FlickrWhether you like it or not, you no longer have a choice about where the unsubscribe link appears in your emails. That is, at least when it comes to Gmail.

As an email sender, you may have noticed the small gray Unsubscribe text at the top of some of your Gmail messages over the past few months. Gmail announced its automatically-inserted Unsubscribe link months ago, but just this week made the feature official. On its G+ Gmail page Wednesday, Google announced the feature is now a permanent fixture on Gmail.

One interesting item from Google’s announcement is to which messages the Unsubscribe link will apply. Only those emails routed to the Social, Promotions, or Forums tabs in the Inbox – not the Primary or Updates tabs – will offer an automatic unsubscribe option. Google’s post indicates its automatic unsubscribe link will be attached to any mail arriving in one of these tabs that includes an opt-out link. Technically, though, the “list-unsubscribe” value in the message header is what will trigger the link’s insertion.

Gmail’s application of this feature has been inconsistent so far. Even now, after the announcement, you’ll most likely find some emails that should have the automatic unsubscribe don’t. Hopefully now that Google has made the feature official, the utilization will be more consistent.

What does the permanent automatic unsubscribe link mean for email marketers?

First, understand if your CAN-SPAM compliant marketing emails appear in the Social, Promotions or Forums tabs in Gmail, an automatic unsubscribe link will be added to the top – if not now, then in the near future.

Second, it’s more important than ever to make sure subscribers have given you permission to send them emails. Otherwise, the combination of the “I didn’t ask for this” content and the automatic unsubscribe button will be too tempting for them not to opt out.

Third, and much in the same vein as the previous point, it’s important you’re sending personalized, relevant content. Even subscribers who’ve opted in for your messages will feel the call of the automatic unsubscribe irresistible if they don’t see content and a design that speaks to them.

As this new feature sees widespread release, our deliverability team is keeping an eye on developments and we’ll certainly communicate any news on this blog.

There’s no doubt Gmail is moving towards more and more ways to eliminate spammy, unwanted emails. The automatic unsubscribe link is a step in that direction.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

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Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


Ready for the Weather: Real-Time Messaging that Wins

What’s better than real-time messaging going to people when they take actions – buy a car, book a trip, abandon their online shopping carts?

Marketers get the most bang for their bucks from auto-response messages because they work. They’re everything a subscriber wants in an email: relevant, timely, personalized.

But did you know in addition to setting up auto-response campaigns, you can send a different kind of real-time message that wins big with readers?

Sending weather-related emails to the right person at the right time adds a wow factor to your emails. It’s just a matter of proactively preparing the campaigns.

First, create segments of your list based on location if you haven’t already. If you’re a national company, large areas may work best: the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest. If you’re a smaller company within one of those regions, you can segment by city. Just remember to dynamically populate the content of your email with area name or city name, depending on how your segments are set up.

The best part is you can create templates way in advance of a weather-related event actually taking place. Make them now; send them later.

Personalized Summer Emails

For example, Starbucks could have created this email months before sending it out. The company knew that at some point, summer – and high temps – would come to many areas of the United States. They simply customized the subject line with an area name tag, and hit the send button when the temperatures spiked.

Subject line: It’s getting pretty warm in the Newburyport area

Starbucks sent this warm weather email.

When Snow’s Coming

Dunkin Doughnuts took a similar approach with its cold weather email. You can safely assume winter storms hit the Northeast and Northwest regularly for 5-6 months a year. Pre-populate a winter warning email, and send it when the weather forecaster starts predicting a big winter storm.

Subject line: A storm’s-a-brewin’

Dunkin' Doughnuts prepares for stormy weather.

Here’s another snow-themed email. Save those who are suffering from cabin fever during a snowstorm with a snow-inspired email (and some shopping on your website).

Subject line: TODAY! FREE shipping (happy snow day)!

West Elm encourages subscribers to shop online during cold weather.

Prepare for Bad Weather

Another good idea is to have a disaster preparedness message ready to send. This is especially important for financial institutions, insurance companies, and power supply organizations. Remind customers of your contact information and educate them on what to do in emergency situations. Here’s an example:

Subject line: Esurance is here for you 24/7

Esurance provides helpful information in the face of bad weather.

Even if you’re not one of the previously mentioned types of companies, you can prepare an email offering sympathy to those in the area affected by the severe weather. Even if you decide not to create a dedicated email for this type of event, make sure your already scheduled messages are appropriate in consideration of the natural disaster. The last thing you want to be is an insensitive brand during a time of emergency.

What Not to Send

The last thing you want to do is send a weather-related email to the wrong person. A snow day email opened by a subscriber in sunny, hot Arizona? It has a damper effect on the relationship. Keep mistakes like this from happening by carefully segmenting your list, and double checking you’ve chosen the appropriate segment for your message before hitting send.

Also, if you decide not to create weather-related email campaigns, you can still personalize. If there’s a heat wave hitting the whole country one week, why not make reference to it or include a pun about it in your messaging? That small touch of personalization will help subscribers see you’re human. And that’s what building a relationship with them is all about.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

Download our latest eBook

Your email list is your most valuable asset. Learn 57 tips for building it today!


Marketing as Baseball

Baseball glove by Andrei!, via FlickrWhatCounts’ founder Allen Nance is fond of reminding the marketing team that any project we do needs to be measurable. One of the most measurable things in life is baseball.

I’m a numbers guy. Always have been, always will be. In this particular case, an 89 – 91 mile-per-hour fastball in high school baseball got me scouted before my knee exploded, and I was really bummed about that … until I examined everything. I knew I did one thing really, really well … then after I took a look at my full statistics from my high school days, I realized that I sucked at pitching outside of throwing a ball really, really hard.

My curveball was getting golfed about half the time, and I didn’t really understand how to throw a change-up without “tipping” it with my delivery. As a result, my pitching repertoire was being limited — not by ability, but by myself.

I wasn’t looking at my blind spots, I wasn’t looking in the rear-view window, I was riding on one number that took me to success without considering the peripherals that were screaming that I was going to hit a very harsh wall of diminishing returns.

If you’re in marketing, you need to be willing to look at everything from a holistic perspective. Just because one number says you’re great at what you’re doing, that doesn’t mean you’re great at everything you’re doing.

Now, the great thing about both pitching and marketing is that if you totally whiff on something, or launch a meatball that your competition tees off upon … it’s only marketing, it’s not rocket surgery.

You can always hit your spot with your next fastball.

Tim Brechlin
Inbound Marketing Manager, WhatCounts

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From the Blog

Learn digital marketing tips, tricks and strategies from some of our top blog posts:

The ABCs of Email Testing: Learn about top strategies for testing your emails.

5 Easy Tips to Make Your Subject Lines Stand Out: Get noticed in the inbox with these subject line tips.

The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do: Keep your email marketing program healthy by following this one, easy-to-do tip.